How to be a Good Parent to Single Mormon Adults (from the series: Single and Married in the LDS Church)

Singles ParentsBy Amanda Waterhouse

Note from Suzette: Amanda has spelled out several excellent ideas for good parenting to single Mormon adults. These same principles apply if you have single adult ward members or single adult friends. These missteps really do happen! (ie: couch sleeping, kids tables, invasive questions on dating, strange advice on marriage that might have applied years ago, awkward family picture moments, and even ignoring.) Hoping that when we all know better – we do better.


I’ll begin succinctly: Don’t treat a single adult differently than your other children.

You may not intend to; I hope you don’t intend to; but it is not unusual for single adults to be given an “other” status in their own families as much as they are given one at church.   Here are a few things to keep in mind that may help keep your interactions with your single child in balance:

  • Be aware of accommodations you make for the spouses of your children that put the single adult in a less-than desirable place. I understand the instinct to give more privacy to the marrieds, but if it is really fair to expect the single adult to always take the couch/backseat/kid’s table? (Yes, kid’s table. It happens.)
  • Don’t assume that their schedule is more flexible/less important than everyone else’s schedules. Yes, it is easier when there’s only one person’s time to account for; but please remember the toll it takes to always be the one who accommodates everyone else.
  • Be careful with the lure of grandchildren. By all means be outstanding, present, supportive, loving grandparents; but please recognize that the single child may be left out. Do you visit the single child as much as the ones with grandkids? Do you see the single child in his/her home, or do they only see you when they join you at the married’s house? When the family gets together, is it all about the babies and the recitals and what the kids want to do, or is there time for the adults to be adults?
  • Take an interest in their interests. Find out what your single child is doing and then learn about it yourself! Just as you might bone up on the latest Pixar release to talk to your grandkids, keep up with your single child’s hobbies, interests, and career.
  • Acknowledge that the older your child gets, your personal experience with singleness loses relevance.
  • Talk to your single child. Rather than focusing on what’s not happening, focus on what is happening. This doesn’t mean that talking about dating is completely taboo; it can be just as annoying to have your parents avoid that subject altogether. Just be aware of the balance of topics in your conversations and make sure that you acknowledge everything your single adult is rather than what he/she is not.
  • Understand that it is challenging to be single in this church, which means your single adult might have doubts, ask questions, or feel like he/she just doesn’t fit in as a Mormon anymore. Don’t freak out about this or rush in to “fix” things. Listen to your child; hear his/her perspective.
  • Remember that marriage doesn’t fix everything. Your child can have a full, enriching, fascinating, and worthwhile as a single adult. Love them, support them, listen to them, and please just make sure they know that they are enough, just as they are.

Amanda Waterhouse teaches theater and a whole lot more in a high school outside of Denver. She loves traveling, Michelin restaurants, Marvel movies, and the Oxford comma.


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15 Responses

  1. Violadiva says:

    Great Suggestions, Thank you!

  2. Jess R says:

    As a single adult child, I say Amen to all of these. Thank you for the great resource!

  3. Liz says:

    These are so simple, but yet such huge things that many of us never think about. I especially loved this – “Acknowledge that the older your child gets, your personal experience with singleness loses relevance.” I am grateful for that reminder. Thank you!!

  4. spunky says:

    This is brilliant! Thank you!

  5. KB says:

    This is spot on. I would add one more: Be aware of the traditions in your family that center around marriage/babies and try to include the single individual. Or at least don’t force them to participate (ie, grandma makes a quilt for each grandchild when they get married, we always have a baby shower just for the cousins, all of the aunts and uncles pitch in to buy an expensive wedding gift, etc).

  6. East River Lady says:

    This needs to be shared far and wide among church members. Thank you for this!!

  7. Jenny says:

    Great advice!

  8. Rebecca says:

    Excellent! The suggestion to focus on what your child is doing rather than what she isn’t doing also applies to conversations with others. For example, if someone asks for an update, avoid saying, “My daughter still isn’t married, but….” Focus on what IS going on her life.

  9. Michelle says:

    Infantilizing singles is all too common. Single women especially are victimized in LDS families because we can’t snap our fingers and have a date magically appear every weekend, for not doing more to attract a “good man” into our lives because of the horribly skewed numbers. For having obtained all the education we can then being told it isn’t worth a hill of beans because we STILL aren’t married (true story!)
    Oh, and you might want to edit this: “Your child can have a full, enriching, fascinating, and worthwhile (sex life?) as a single adult.” (Because if you’re not cohabi-dating yet, there’s something seriously wrong with you. Get a man, dang it!)

    • Andrew R. says:

      Michelle, really? You are suggesting that we have our children break the Law of Chastity?

      I, for one, will not be doing so.

      • EFH says:

        Sexlife is very important and whether it is more important than the Law of Chastity is up to every single person to decide for themselves. The main point is that physical contact is very important. Being held and hugged is something that single people and widowers or separated partners go through. Sometimes we really just want a big long hug no matter of the civil status and for the single people it is even harder because parents and friends might overlook the physical comfort that is needed often in one’s life.

  10. Can I please reblog this on my blog for LDS Singles, as long as I provide authorship and origin (Exponent II, etc.) This was so well done!!

  11. Andrew R. says:

    Thanks for this. I have two single adult daughters (I have a son too, but he is on a mission) one lives at home, the other on her own. Whilst it is easy to look at the list and think, “I know that”, “That’s obvious”, etc. It is only when you look at something like this you can actually think about how you compare.

    • Suzette says:

      Thank you for your comment. Wishing you all the best with you daughters (and son). Today’s post will be on single men. And the “law of chastity” is still to come. I’m sure it will be a lively discussion.

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